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The Benefits and Cautions of Bitter Orange Supplements

Fitday Editor
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Walk into your local health food store and you can find bitter orange supplements, tinctures, extracts and essential oils. What is interesting about bitter orange is that the oils from the leaves and the oils from the flowers have different scents, however both smell like oranges. In aromatherapy, bitter orange is used to stimulate and awaken like a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning. But they can also be used to enhance stress relief, help with relaxation and can actually enhance your meditation practice.

Use of Supplements

Traditional medicine systems use bitter orange supplements to treat digestive problems, constipation, indigestion and nausea. You will also see bitter orange supplements marketed for treating congestion, heartburn, weight loss and a variety of fungal problems including some skin conditions. Add them to your diffuser, a hot bath or place a few drops on your pulse points for a relaxing feeling any time of day.


Reasons to Be Cautious

There is not a lot of research and science behind bitter orange. Studies are cautious when it comes to health purposes of bitter orange. Here are some concerns to be aware of when using bitter orange:

1. Bitter orange contains a substance known as synephrine that is similar to ephedra that was all the rage for weight loss before the FDA banned it. Ephedra raises blood pressure thereby increases the risk for a heart attack or stroke. It is highly probably that synephrine does the same thing.

2. Be cautious about putting bitter orange oil on the skin as it can make you more susceptible to sunburn.

3. Avoid using bitter orange if taking any medications because again, the supplement raises blood pressure and could cause other reactions.

4. Smelling bitter orange is totally safe without ingesting it.

The peel of bitter orange may help with digestive problems and other health concerns. The oils are extracted from the peel, where the strong odor and flavor is utilized. In addition to synephrine, it contains alkaloids, octopamine and N-methyltyramine and carotenoids. Always follow label directions as different manufacturers have different dosages and potencies.

Use in the Past

Folk medicine used bitter orange for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, nervousness or anxiety, insomnia, sore throat, gout and for weight loss. Oriental medicine still uses the flower of the bitter orange to increase appetite, and ease stomach and chest pain as well as vomiting. Homeopathic practitioners use both the flower and the peel to get rid of headaches, aid in digestion, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, high blood pressure and weight loss. Those in Latin America use it to prepare a tonic to be used as a laxative, reduce anxiety and help with insomnia.

Should You Use It?

Keep in mind that bitter orange is generally recognized as safe in the U.S. in small amounts found in foods. However, it is not safe in high doses. It can cause hypertension and cardiovascular toxicity. Skin sensitivity is also quite common so be careful with using bitter orange peel or oil on the skin. Women who are breastfeeding, pregnant and children should not use bitter orange supplements at all. Anyone suffering from hypertension, a fast or irregular heartbeat, or glaucoma should avoid bitter orange altogether.

Sherry L. Granader is a Sports Nutritionist, National Speaker and Spokesperson, Author of 2 healthy cookbooks, Writer, Ghost Writer, Nationally Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. She has shared the stage with such celebrities as Whoopi Goldberg, Suze Orman and the late Governor Ann Richards and served as the On-Air Nutritionist for QVC television in the United States and the UK. She has cooked for her favorite bodybuilder, Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk) and his family, shared her nutrition expertise with Chuck Norris on the set of his movie "Sidekicks" and appeared on 8-time Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney's Championship Workouts on ESPN. Sherry hosted her own "Healthy Living" show on PBS for several years. For more information on Sherry, visit or write to Sherry at [email protected].

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